What Are the Guidelines and Restrictions Under the Death on High Seas Act?

Photo of a coffin at a funeral service in a cemetery

Also known as the DOHSA, the Death on High Seas Act is an important maritime law that all maritime workers should be aware of. It was enacted by the US government in 1920 in order to give financial compensation to any families of shipmen who have died while being on duty. There have been other important amendments added to this law since its enactment, and the law remains an important law for seamen today.

What Are the Additional Amendments to the DOHSA?

In the year 2000, a vital amendment was added to the DOHSA. This amendment included any monetary claims for lives lost in aircraft accidents and disasters. In addition to these monetary claims, further amendments allow relatives and other members of the family of the deceased to claim compensation for any trauma and/or mental grief that they also experienced.

What Are the Specific Terms Under the DOHSA?

  • The incident must occur on the high seas beyond a marine league, which is three miles, from any state shore or U.S. territory
  • A DOHSA suit must begin within three years from the date of the shipmen’s death
  • If the deceased was involved in any negligent action that contributed to the fatal accident, the compensatory award can be reduced
  • For any aircraft crashes under a DOHSA suit, the crash must be inside a 12-mile radius from any US shore
  • The maritime court of law will appoint a nominee from the family to oversee the filing of the suit. No other family members besides the nominee are permitted to participate in the legal filing of the DOHSA suit.

The compensatory filing process under the Death on High Seas Act can be confusing and require a lot of paperwork and calculation. Our maritime attorneys at Galloway Jefcoat LLP are skilled in maritime law and can help explain these laws to you and your family. Contact us today for a free consultation.



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